Michigan and California, vying for control of our driverless future, are each proposing crumbling World War II military sites as ideal locations to test robot cars. Michigan’s secret weapon? Better potholes.
The Great Lakes state plans to make a test track out of a 330-acre (134-hectare) industrial ghost town near Ypsilanti, where Rosie the Riveter built B-24 bombers during World War II. Backers contend that tough winters make the Willow Run factory site a better proxy for the imperfect world of driving than California’s decommissioned Navy base in Concord.
“California is not the real world — they don’t have four seasons,” said Debbie Dingell, the Democratic congresswoman representing Ypsilanti. “We’ve got real potholes. It’s a much more real-world scenario.”
The states are competing for a chunk of almost $4 billion in federal funding that President Barack Obama last month proposed for development of self-driving cars. While Congress has yet to approve the funding, the dangled money sets up a test-track showdown mirroring the larger struggle between Detroit and Silicon Valley for control of the connected car.